Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sage.


http://comics.com/the_born_loser/

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Debunking a Chestnut

I have a very hard time understanding people who would defend the Bush Administration's clandestine approval of torture and its subsequent cover-up of the same. I suppose, if I wrap my mind around it enough, I can manufacture a scenario where I believe that a government that would lie about an activity it was performing would nonetheless be sincere in assessing the need, application, and efficacy of it. But I think that would take far more alcohol than I've ever consumed, or a frontal lobotomy.

One of the closest things to a cogent argument that I'd heard was the "But Lincoln suspended habeas corpus!" canard. Perhaps on the surface, that argument is on point, but on closer review, it doesn't hold water (no pun intended). To emphasize the point, I would direct you to Jonathan Zasloff's post at The Reality-Based Community. I don't want to take too much of his post here, because it should be read in its entirety, but his summary is crystal:
Had Bush and Cheney really believed that there was an emergency requiring torture, they would have 1) said so publicly; 2) taken responsibility for the decision and defended it; 3) gotten Congressional approval; and 4) limited it as much as possible.

But they couldn't have done that, because torture was never about a national security emergency. It was about proving an Iraq-Al Qaeda link for political purposes. Or establishing precedent for unilateral executive rule. Or about military dropouts and draft dodgers like Bush, Cheney, and Addington showing how tough they were. Or something.

Following Lincoln's 1861 precedent would thus have defeated the entire purpose of the torture program. And that shows us just how much these guys were a bunch of moral cretins.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My Only Real Concern is That I'm Not That Concerned

I understand the swine flu is serious, and I understand it has the possibility of being really bad, but I'm just not feeling the concern that others are feeling. I'm hoping this isn't my version of The Lottery, but I just keep thinking that people are overreacting to the threat.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Missing the Point

You've got to feel for those maligned Christians in Irving, Texas. Here they are, being discriminated against by their school district by being forced to wear their shirts tucked into their pants. A second grader(!) complained and asked for permission to violate the school's dress code, because she felt like she was being "persecuted for being a Christian," according to this article from Religion Clause Blog.

I can see it now, all those athiests, Muslims, and Buddhists on the school board gathered together in a dimly lit room, scheming of ways to persecute those minority Christians by making them tuck their shirts in. Can't you hear the evil, maniacal laughter coming from the bowels of the district? Yet, here comes this Crusader! She knows she's been maligned, and that her faith is under assault - she won't go down without a fight! She knows as well as anyone that if she doesn't take a stand on this CLEAR attempt to foil her faith, then all hope for Christianity in this nation are lost.

Of course, this is absurd. The policy was not made to "persecute" anyone, particularly not a 2nd grader who wouldn't know that word unless her parents fed it to her. No, the policy had a legitimate secular interest, did not have the primary (or, arguably ANY) effect of promoting or inhibiting religion, and doesn't even come close to entangling religion and government. In other words - it has no bearing on religion whatsoever. It's applied across the board - except for this 2nd grader, that is.

I wonder what's going to happen now in that district if a Muslim student insists on wearing her hijab - the school board clearly can't deny her that right. The district created a whole new problem, as they're going to have to answer every challenge to their dress code based on religious concerns.

Fantasy Worlds

That's what Dick Cheney is apparently left with. First off, he has his daughter on television saying with a straight face that the "enhanced interrogation program" that the Bush administration implemented was not "torture," despite the fact that we have prosecuted and hanged others for doing the same thing. He and his claim that these techniques were and are used by our SERE teams in training - yet excludes that these are taught to our military as being what the enemy, who has no regard for the Geneva Treaties, does. Of course, we know the Bush Administration's disdain for the Geneva accords, as well, so perhaps that's not a stretch.

But, as Andrew Sullivan notes, Dick Cheney has painted himself into a corner where he's forced to even lie about the effectiveness of the torture performed at the administration's OK (and remember, this had gone on BEFORE they asked for retroactive approval for what they had been doing.)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Basketball MVP

We take a quick break from the insanity of some of those on the Right in defending torture to bring you a discussion related to Basketball, namely, the MVP of the league.

Now, the MVP is basically a PR stunt (literally, the first MVP was sponsored by a carmaker - Ty Cobb in baseball won), but some people have attached meaning to it. Here's what I would consider in voting for MVP: did he make his team better? Better in this sense is not "Did we win more games," but rather "Because of (my) presence, did we perform as a more cohesive unit that (usually) translated to wins that we otherwise might not have found a way to win?" In other words, did the team become a better TEAM solely because you were there?

Last year I went on record as saying I didn't think Kobe Bryant should have won the MVP - I didn't think he was the reason the Lakers were better than they had been in years past. I still believe that. They won because of other additions to the team that assisted Kobe, and those additions are there now - Kobe is the best player on the team, and his absence would definitely be felt in the win column, but they were going to the playoffs already with him there. It was the addition of the other players that developed the steadiness that made them the favorites. I thought Chris Paul should have won last year.

This year, I firmly believe that Chauncey Billups should be voted MVP. This is not a knock on Kobe or LeBron, who are both phenomenal players, but they've both been winning quite a bit already. The Nuggets, however, completely gelled with the addition of Chauncey Billups. He is the glue that made them a top 3 team in the west. His teammates are better because of his presence, and THAT is what determines who is most valuable.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

This Week's Essay Question(s)

If John McCain and Sarah Palin had been elected President last November, would the torture memos have ever seen the light of day? Is the release of these memos good or bad for America?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Unequivocal Statements

Some time ago, all right, about 19 months ago, I made a statement that the War in Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11. What I meant by that was pretty basic - there was no connection between Al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein/Iraq. Yes, this was one of the primary arguments in favor of the second AUMF for Iraq. Yes, it was wrong - there was no connection.

It turns out, of course, that the administration found this out pretty early on, yet they refused to believe it. We know now that the administration authorized torture, even as it was dismissing what happened at Abu Ghraib as the work of "a few bad apples." But, what did they do? Well, like anyone desperate to show they're right, they resorted to torture, which they derided publicly, yet embraced to prove their lie. I read about this first at Andrew Sullivan's site. It wasn't bad apples, it was top-down policy, complete with scapegoating.

I think the fact that this has happened in our name is deplorable. And I'm not sure how you can trust those who denied that they even tortured (h/t Mark Shea) when they now say that that torture led to useful information - particularly when the examples they provide are temporally impossible. (From the Slate - also first read on Andrew Sullivan)

I am fully in favor of special counsel being appointed. I most certainly believe Jay Bybee and John Yoo need to be disbarred. I think that all of this needs to be brought out in the open and aired publicly, so that the wounds can begin to heal, and we can begin to return to our place atop the moral high ground. Ignoring this, or walking away, helps nobody but those who violated the laws that those below them have already been punished for. (h/t Obsidian Wings)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Unbelievable

I've made mention before about boot camp, and how we were taught what "the bad guys" did and what we were above. And we were told plainly that what made us a Great Nation was that we observed and obeyed our laws and treaties, and this included the Geneva Conventions. However, we were warned, just because we do this, we cannot expect our enemies to do so. This was in 1995.

Today, I pulled up President Bush's speech from September 21, 2001, when he announced that he was creating a Department of Homeland Security. Some snippets:

"They hate what they see right here in this chamber: a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other."

"I ask you to uphold the values of America and remember why so many have come here. We're in a fight for our principles, and our first responsibility is to live by them."

"Freedom and fear are at war. The advance of human freedom, the great achievement of our time and the great hope of every time, now depends on us."

He closed with:

"Fellow citizens, we'll meet violence with patient justice, assured of the rightness of our cause and confident of the victories to come."

Additionally, check out his speech on September 12, 2001:

"This enemy hides in shadows and has no regard for human life. (He's talking about Al Qaeda here, not the Bush administration). This is an enemy who preys on innocent and unsuspecting people, then runs for cover (not that we detained scores of people who were considered "suspect" merely because they were Iraqi males between the ages of 16-45). This is an enemy that tries to hide, but it won't be able to hide forever... Those in authority should take appropriate precautions to protect our citizens. But we will not allow this enemy to win the war by changing our way of life or restricting our freedoms."

Here's my question: based on President Bush's statements, and then based on what transpired under his tenure as President, how can we consider our way of life unchanged when we have a headline such as this: "Unresolved debate in DOJ memos: Does Torture Work?"

We have become what the President said he was fighting against. Isn't it wrong to abandon the rule of law when the violations came from the top down internally? Shouldn't we be pressing President Obama for investigations/prosecutions? And if not, then shouldn't we be pressing President Obama for a pardon of Lynndie England? I mean, he said "We do not torture," even while we were torturing. Then the story changed, and changed some more, and changed some more. What are we, if we allow our most prominent representative to walk away from this, as though the page has turned?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Individual Rights, Cont'd

A few days ago, I posted on the recent decision in Heller, and remarked that it established the 2nd Amendment as an individual right. My good friend, and fellow AF vet, the Gun Toting Liberal was kind enough to extend to me the honor of posting this on his blog, as well. In the comments, Joe Lovell, a clear thinker indeed, noted that while this decision was big, it did not extend to the states, as the law in question was in the District of Columbia, or Federal territory and had not yet been incorporated to the states. Of course, this is would have required essentially an advisory opinion, as the issue in the case dealt with whether the DC ban violated the 2nd Amendment, not whether the right extended to the states. As such, the Court couldn't answer whether it extended to the states, and rightly refrained from doing so.

However, this does not mean that the issue is dead in the water. In fact, it's still very active, and has just been ruled upon in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals - you know, those liberal activists on the West Coast that some on the Right were vocally calling for the disbandment of just a few years ago? This Court of Appeals just held that the 14th Amendment incorporates the 2nd Amendment to the states! The 3 judge panel consisted of a Carter, a Reagan, and a Clinton appointee, and they incorporated through the Due Process clause, not the privileges and immunities clause. Big news.

Of course, this only applies to the 9th Circuit, but it does support other districts. The 2nd Amendment is coming closer to full definition, for better or worse.

Other Bloggers Weighing In:
The Gun Toting Liberal
The Moderate Voice

How to Approach This?

Apparently, a Representative was caught on an NSA wiretap. This is interesting in and of itself. The wiretap conversation that was caught apparently made reference to Representative Harman of California offering to "waddle into" a purported espionage case of two AIPAC officials, essentially lobbying for reduced charges. According to the article, in exchange, the Israeli offered to help set her up by lobbying Nancy Pelosi to appoint her chairman of the Intelligence Committee.

As Andrew Sullivan points out: Is it more of a scandal that the Bushies were wire-tapping Harman and then were in a position to blackmail her if she didn't provide public support for ... their warrantless wire-tapping?

When this gets to Rush, I'm sure the first thing he'll do is lambaste Pelosi for being an anti-Semite, since she didn't appoint Harman to the chair of the committee, despite the promise of AIPAC to lobby for just that.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

What He Said

"He" is Andrew Sullivan, and the links he provides in this post.

My Sunday

I should be working. We have plenty to get through and few people qualified to do it. Yet, I'm apparently procrastinating. I did manage to get to church, though - 2 weeks in a row. We find it very good for the kids.

I also cut the grass in the front yard. It was due, though not overdue. More importantly, I edged the driveway, which was definitely overdue.

And, I've read Bybee's torture memo wherein he justifies all the actions the US wanted to do to coerce testimony from al Zubaydah. It's chilling the lengths to which people will go to justify unjust actions. Of course, to the Bush appointee, nothing that they want to do is torture, because none of it causes "severe pain and suffering" for a continued period necessary to qualify. It is as bad as the pundits say, and as conclusory as one might fear - never does he question whether the torturers will do just what they've asked, nor does he question their position, rather, he says, essentially, "You say you don't want this to be torture, so it isn't." That's reprehensible, and that this was done to justify actions perpetrated in the name of our country makes it all the worse.

There's plenty to say about these memos, more than can be put in one post, and others have covered it more clearly than I, but I most sincerely join them in their condemnation of what transpired under President Bush's watch and with his tacit approval.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Damn Activist Judges Strike Again!

I really don't understand what's going on with these judges in America. Man, they must REALLY hate our country. How else could they justify attacking our Nation's religion so much and so often? Clearly we are at war for our very country's soul!

What's happened to recently that put me in such a snit? Well, I'm glad you asked. I'm sure you've heard of the Country music group Diamond Rio, right? Is there anything more American than Country music? I mean, it's as American as Apple Pie! I'm not just saying that because I got to fly home in the same plane as Lyle Lovett, either (the man looks JUST like his photograph, it's uncanny). Well, this school in Florida has an assembly, and in the assembly, the third graders, all good loyal Americans who have said their Pledge of Allegiance, are given different songs to sing. One of the songs just happens to be a country song by Diamond Rio called In God We Still Trust. This is very American obviously, inasmuch as it's almost the same as what we have written on all our currency.

This is quite the patriotic song, too. The good folks at Americans United for Separation of Church and State have actually posted some of the lyrics, which I will relay here: "There’s no separation…We are one nation under Him…Now there are those among us, Who want to push Him out…From the schoolhouse to the courthouse, They’re silencing His word, Now it’s time for all believers, To make our voices heard."

Of course, some children, or their parents, just aren't good Americans. And they complained, like the whiners those anti-American anti-Christians they are (I know, it's redundant, but sometimes you have to be redundant to make your point). The school district, clearly showing more logic and composure than they had any real reason to, offered the insanely reasonable alternative that these children who didn't love their country could opt to not participate in the assembly at all. Wouldn't you know it - those Socialist God and America-hating people didn't like this completely fair and unbiased alternative at all, and they filed a lawsuit.

This is where the Activist Judges get involved. This guy must have really had his head shoved up his bum when he was learning civics, because he just completely turned the world on its head when he issued his holding. He actually had the gall (I cannot confirm whether he actually had his gall bladder, though) to side with these America-haters!

Using such devious tricks as "precedent," "stare decisis," and "the Constitution" to support his bench-legislation, he proceeded to hold that the school district was in the wrong for attempting to help its student body properly love this Christian nation. He had the nerve to refer to this as "proselytizing." Man, talk about marbles! from the article I just linked to, here's a quote from Judge Schlesinger, "In God We Still Trust [is a] song overtly espousing a specific religious viewpoint and attacking of those who do not share in the same belief."

Well escuse the heck out of me! But, I don't see the problem with people being told the right religion to have to love our country. This activist clearly is telling people that there's no room for God in America. You can tell by the bile (which would indicate that he DOES still have his gall bladder) in his opinion that he's just another America-hating liberal activist judge. I mean, the guy brings up the old canard "wall of separation," as though it's what the author of the First Amendment meant when he wrote "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibitng the free exercise thereof." I mean, it's almost as if he took Lemon, and Santa Fe, Lee v. Weisman, and the other cases clearly establishing the meaning of the First Amendment's religion clause and followed them like they were right, or something.

"But Steve," I hear you asking, "How do we know he's an activist judge?" Well, that's simple - he's gotta be a liberal given his audacity to rule against God, and he's clearly been appointed by - George H.W. Bush?! Well, wait just a moment. You know what, now that I go back and look at this again, with "fresh" eyes, I can see what genius there is in his writing. He makes such a cogent argument! It's as though I'm looking at the First Amendment all over again, only it's with eyes wide open! What brilliance! What loquaciousness! What art! Clearly, this man is a genius!

Some Conflict

Apparently, there's been a bit of a brouhaha over Georgetown University's covering of their religious symbols. This article at Religion Clause Blogspot contains an explanation as to why the University covered the symbols. Reportedly, it was to be "consistent with other policy speeches." Unsurprisingly, this explanation did not appease everyone. According to the article linked above, "Patrick Reilly, president of The Cardinal Newman Society, said: 'It is such a sad commentary that Catholic universities are willingly hiding the most visible signs of their Catholic identity when hosting secular leaders.'"

I confess I'm a little conflicted with this situation. On the one hand, I have no problem with a President requesting religious references be removed when speaking - he does, after all, represent ALL Americans, not just Catholic (I use Catholic because Georgetown is a Catholic university) Americans. On the other hand, however, the President is knowingly speaking at a Catholic university. I'm not convinced that by merely speaking in front of the dais provided by the location he selected for his speech that he would be endorsing that religion (conversely, I am CERTAIN that by covering said symbols he is not condemning that religion).

I don't know. I guess my inclination is to believe that this is much ado about nothing - an attack on a Christian by other Christians because he's not the Christian they want in office and are hoping to glean some advantage, from the p.r. this phony outrage causes.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Where's the Outrage?

Remember a couple days ago, when the Right's News was touting the "Tea Parties?" Giving PR to this "grassroots movement" started by Rush et al? The problem was with the undermining of our liberties, the increases of taxes (which I've not yet seen, nor would I necessarily oppose, given our current debacle), and increase in spending (continuing on the trend started 8 years ago).

We now have evidence (proof), through all the torture memos that have been released, of the extent to which the previous administration worked to justify their position that torture 1: was not torture, or 2: even if it was, it was all right to do so because it didn't happen on the U.S. proper.

Where's the outrage from those tea partiers? The outrage foisted on the previous administration for udnermining the some of the very things we hold dear in our nation (life and liberty?)

It's simple - it isn't there, because the previous administration had an "R" next to its name. Some of those former administration officials (well, at least one) have already gone on the record accusing the current President of making the country weaker against terrorism - by releasing these memos.

Beyond the pale.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Are You Smarter Than a Bush Administration Crony?

Go to Andrew Sullivan's site, read this quote from John Bybee's memo, and see if you can discern where he fouled up.

Give the Guy a Break

Look, I'm no fan of Rick Perry. I rather think he's a lousy governor. But I think the vitriol being spewed in his direction for his comments that people might start thinking secession is a little much.

Also, I noticed in the article that includes Rick Perry's quote, that there were several signs and comments made to the effect of "We're tired of the spending." President Obama has been in office for 3 months. That's all. And you're tired of the reckless spending? What about the 32 TRILLION in future medicare obligations entered into by the previous President? Where was the anger and outrage then? Does anyone SERIOUSLY believe that President Obama is somehow attempting to bankrupt this country? Give him a chance to fix the big stinking pile of crap he inherited. He deserves that much, at least.

I saw some of the tea partiers yesterday, holding signs that I'm sure they thought were clever, but rreally missed whatever point they were trying to make. One thing I didn't see? Any protesters who appeared to be Asian, Black, Hispanic, Native American, or intelligent.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tea Partiers

I don't get it. I really don't. I understand disliking increased spending. But I don't understand how because it's being done by a President with a (D) after his name, that's the reason it's bad/wrong.

We just had 8 years of Federal expansion greater than any since the Johnson administration, yet there was hardly a peep from Rush, Hannity, or any of the others who have been touting the "tea parties."

Andrew Sullivan has a much better take on this with several posts today.

Is it Speech?

I am providing a link to the First Amendment Law Professors Blog that notes the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals recently heard oral arguments on whether or not New Jersey violated the First Amendment when it declined to authorize bumper stickers with this phrase on it on grounds that it was "too controversial."

The license plates, which are similar to Indiana's (and other states') "In God We Trust" plates, have the words "Choose Life" on them. I'll give you three guesses what the "controversial" word is.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

We Can Handle the Truth

Andrew Sullivan has another very good post on this subject, and the purpose of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Monday, April 13, 2009

He Was The Bird

Mark Fydrich was found dead today on his farm, according to this Yahoo article.

I regret to say I wasn't old enough to remember watching The Bird pitch, though as a Tiger fan, I knew of him and the legacy he made in his brief career.

He was 29-19 in 5 seasons in the major leagues, a career cut short by injury following a Rookie of the Year season that saw him go 19-9.

He will be missed.

So Tired

I've worked late nights every night for the last two work weeks save one, when I stayed late at work. I've worked every weekend during that period, as well, though not a full 8 hours - usually 2-4.

Last night, I clocked out at about 10, and within a few minutes was preparing for bed. I finally started nodding off just around midnight when my sleep was interrupted by a creaking noise. I got up to investigate and saw The Boy attempting to sneak out the front door.

It took him over half an hour to explain to us why he was up at midnight trying to go outside ("I wanted to see what the street looked like in the dark"). After that, it was another half hour before I was comfortably back in bed, able to relax enough to doze off.

We're up at 6 this morning for work and school, and I'll probably be working this evening, as well.

I'm already tired.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

What I Did Next Weekend

Took the Princess and the Apple to their first ever baseball game. (the wife and the Boy will have gone, also).

Christ the Lord is Risen Today

Hallelujah.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

More of the Same is NOT "Change" We Need

If this New York Times article is to be believed, then the Obama administration is planning on appealing a recent decision that granted habeas rights to detainees at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

The late hour precludes any real delving into the matter, but suffice it to say I disagree in principle - perhaps my opinion would be different after reading this with an Eisentrager mind, rather than a Boumediene mind at midnight. I don't know. But right now, I don't like this path.

h/t to The Moderate Voice for posting to this link first.

Where was the Outrage Last Year?

Governor Tim Pawlenty is apparently making headlines (I know this, because the headline is here) in slamming President Obama about taxes.

Apparently, Gov. Pawlenty is annoyed that President Obama is spending a lot in his budget - a heck of a lot. He says that all this spending is going to require an increase in taxes, and has an answer (from the article linked above): "Let hardworking American families keep more of what they earn by cutting taxes and reining in spending," said Gov. Tim Pawlenty, R-Minn. "It's just common sense."

Apparently, Gov. Pawlenty thinks that American People are stupid. Otherwise, he wouldn't be going on the record saying the President should cut taxes when he just signed a bill that included $288 Billion in tax cuts - you remember, the one the House Republicans voted against in toto? And surely he isn't blaming President Obama for the $32 TRILLION in future entitlements commited to by President Bush for Medicare, right? He's not complaining about government expansion after 8 years of the most encompassing Federal Governmental expansion since the Great Society. Of course not. He's blaming President Obama for being a Democrat.

But rather than looking at the absurdity of the statement from this standpoint, let's look at it from another perspective. Gov. Pawlenty says (a week before tax day) that the President should cut taxes, because that would save money. Granted, the Republican Party's response to EVERYTHING, be it a budget surplus, a budget deficit, a hangnail, Huey Lewis and the News, or dust mites is to cut taxes, so this is no surprise in and of itself, but let's consider who gets tax cuts? The majority of working class families (and I want to say over half of all Americans of taxpaying age) pay no taxes, indeed, many families (you may be one of them) actually gets money FROM the government every year at tax time because of their financial situation. So cutting taxes for them is taking away from zero, or taking away from a negative. Tax cuts here do nothing to help. The tax cuts then would have to go to the top half of wage earners - remember, there's already been tax cuts for many of these Americans, so I'm not sure where Gov. Pawlenty is going with this. Perhaps he's arguing for a trickle-down type proposal, because we've seen how effective that's been over the past 30 years. The problem is, there's no increased revenue, because the super-rich who get these tax benefits don't spend the money; rather they hoard it, which means there's no flow for a trickle to stem from. Instead, what ends up happening is more money is distributed to fewer people, many of whom didn't earn what they have in the Horatio Alger sense, rather they got as a result of a trust fund or private school connections. So they can't POSSIBLY be the object of Governor Pawlenty's statement.

No, the real object of the statement is the headline - getting some fiscal conservative rhetoric out right before tax time so that the Average Joe the Plumber "knows" who's "working" for him.

Common Courtesy

All right - Item number 46 of Things That Should Go Without Saying:

If the grocery store is packed and there are umpteen million people waiting to check out, and you have more than the "15 or fewer items" or however many that store requires for its express checkout, then for goodness' sake, DON'T try to do the self-checkout - this goes doubly if you have items that you have to enter (e.g produce without a bar code).

Friday, April 10, 2009

But, He Ain't Kinky

I'm sure several people, including the 3-5 people who still stop by here regularly, have already seen/read about the Glenn Beck video where he sets douses someone with water (representing gasoline) and lighting a match to demonstrate his distaste for the premise that President Obama might someday embrace some form of immigration reform not unlike what President Bush proposed. I won't post the video here, but I will post a link to the Washington Monthly that comments on what happened next, after the posted video.

It seems Texas governor Rick Perry, the governor who managed to hold office despite getting fewer than 40% of the popular vote in the last gubernatorial election, was the next guest, and in response to the question "[y]ou're regretting being on this program at this point, are you not, sir?" governor Perry responded "Not at all, Glenn Beck. I'm proud to be with you."

Yeah. President Obama is the dividing force.

A couple days late

But it's still view-worthy. Remember that this is the same party who stood lockstep behind a President who felt obliged to ignore the Constitution at his discretion and who attempted to (and in some cases succeeded in) override the 1st and 4th Amendments.

Now they're worried about "tyranny."

Go to Vim and Vinegar's post here. Watch the video.

She Has Nothing For Which She Should Apologize

Betty Brown was in the papers recently. She's a congresswoman from North Texas, and the Texas legislature, standard bearers for individual liberty that they are, are discussing voting rights. The legislature is considering requiring that citizens provide proof of identification at the polling station in order to vote. Some liberal crybabies are all up in arms about this, saying stupid things like Ramey Ko did - that people of Asian descent might have problems because their voters' cards might have their legal name (like Ho Won Sok), while their drivers' licenses or other identification would have their commonly used English name (like Wally).

Talk about a whiner. Betty Brown had a perfectly reasonable answer to this (according to this Chron.com article - Note - the article I linked to appears to no longer be available):
Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese - I understand it's a rather difficult language - do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here? ... Can't you see that this is something that would make it a lot easier for you and the people who are poll workers if you could adopt a name just for idenfication purposes that's easier for Americans to deal with?
Of course the liberal pussyfooters in the legislature, who I'm sure WANT us all speaking Chinese, got all up in arms about this very reasonable request, demanding that Betty Brown apologize (source: Keyetv news in Austin).

I say Kudos to Ms Brown for sticking up for America! We all know that it's perfectly reasonable to ask voters to prove they are who they say they are at the polls, what with the rampant voter fraud that's been going on recently. Just look at all the statistics to back up this very real threat: wait, I can't find actual statistics showing proof of voter fraud running rampant in Texas, so you'll just have to trust me and Ms. Brown and the supporters of this legislation that it's a Very Real Threat on the grounds of conjecture and rhetoric.

I think this is a very easily solved problem. Since people have enough trouble coming up with one name, and these Asian-Americans have, in many cases, come up with two already, I think we should simplify ("streamline") the process. Rather than have these "Americans" come up with their own names, I propose we take names that are easily understandable. The surname "Brown" is indubitably understandable, as it's one of the most common surnames in America. I think she would be honored at the thought of lending her surname to these Asians with difficult-to pronounce names like "Park," "Lee," or "Kim." That solves half the problem. Now for first names. Obviously one would be hard pressed to find a name more easily understandable or clearly red-blooded American than "Bubba." I mean, he was Forrest Gump's best good friend, and Texas native Bubba Smith played for the Michigan State Spartans - you know, the state with Detroit - the city that made America great, and source of Texas' best selling Pickup! And really, Bubba Brown is very clearly going to be easy for people to pronounce. The catch is, that name would only work for half of the population. I think for the other half, we need to go with something just as American as Apple Pie - something straight out of an Archie Comic book - Veronica is too long - people would potentially get confused. No, I think the solution has to come from Veronica's nemesis - "Betty." I mean, what's more American than Betty White, or Peggy Hill's famous Apple Brown Betty? Come to think of it, it's like Peggy Hill's Brown Betty in Reverse - Betty Brown!

Wow, I just realized, that would be the same name as the person who made this very simple, reasonable request in the first place! What an homage - to take the name of the person who is so clearly concerned for protecting your ability to participate in our way of life! I'm sure Rep. Brown would be moved beyond words at such an honor. And deep down, you know you would be, too.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

For those with some spare time

Here is the ICRC report on the torture that took place in Guantanamo Bay in the name of fighting "terror."

The investigation needs to take place.

The memos and documents need to be released.

Every day President Obama delays in this he becomes that much more a part of the abuses.

What Did You Do on Summer Vacation?

I rarely have anything to report in response to this. Once, I got to say "I drove to Indiana after taking the Bar exam," but other than that, we've been relatively quiet over the summer.

What I'd like to do is be able to say I went here. But I would need someone to watch the kids.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Sometimes, You Can Only Shake Your Head

At the notion that somehow the torture that took place during the Bush administration has been concocted by President Obama for political gain. Read Andrew Sullivan's take here.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Individual Rights

Last week in the news, I saw stories related to no fewer than 3 separate incidents of multiple killings by use of handguns. Unsurprisingly, this has led to pieces discussing the Second Amendment and what it means. And it's only a matter of time (if it's not come already) before people start calling for stricter gun controls.

As this is the case, it becomes necessary to understand what was written in the recent case, Heller v. District of Columbia, 554 U.S. _____, 2008 (the link does not include a specific page reference. While I do not doubt that one has been attributed by this point, time constraints preclude my searching for it at this time), and understand the significance of this individual right.

First, a quick backgrounder on the case, as summarized in the opinion. Dick Heller was a special police officer who had desired to register his handgun in the District of Columbia. The District of Columbia, however, had rules so restrictive, it was virtually impossible to own one. You could not possess an unregistered handgun, and were not allowed to register handguns. You could apply for a 1 year license, approved by the chief of police, but Heller's application was denied, after which he filed suit. The suit was dismissed at circuit court, then reversed by the Court of Appeals on Second Amendment grounds, and the Supreme Court granted cert.

The Court held that the Second Amendment's right to Keep and Bear Arms clause protects an individual right, not connected with service to any militia.

In reaching the decision, Justice Scalia first reviewed the Second Amendment: "A well-regulated militia, being necessary to a free and secure State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." He noted that there are two clauses, a purpose clause and an operative clause, and that the operative clause did not rely on the purpose clause for its meaning. In other words, the purpose clause listed one reason for the RKBA, not the only reason.

Justice Scalia then parsed out the meaning somewhat more, delving into the operative clause. "The right of the people," according to the opinion, is a phrase that had been used 3 times in the unamended Constitution and the Bill of Rights, in the 1st, 2nd and 4th Amendments, and all of these times the rights mentioned referred to individual rights, not collective rights. This makes sense if you look at it from an historical standpoint. Remember, the Constitution was unpopular when ratified, and was only ratified contingent on a promise to enact a Bill of Rights. The federalist papers were Constitutional P.R. - trying to sell the document to a public who were leery of Governmental control. He then notes that in all iterations of "the people," both in these rights, but in exercising power (preamble, 10th amendment, and Sec. 2, Art. I), the phrase referred to all People, not a specific subset (though he neglects to mention that slaves were not considered "people" at the time), which if we were to interpret the operative clause of the 2nd Amendment to be contingent on the purpose clause, we would be forced to do.

He then discusses the meaning of the word "arms," and unsurprisingly finds it to mean weapons or armor. Moreover, the right to "keep" arms, he states, is the right to possess them, going back to Blackstone who remarked on "Catholics convicted of not attending service in the Church of England suffered certain penalties, one of which was that they were not permitted to 'keep arms in their houses.' 4 Commentaries on the Laws of England 55 (1769), as well as several other references to a right of all people to "keep arms." In a similar manner, he found that "bear arms" meant to carry or possess (not arms of bears).

He continues, "Putting all of these textual elements together, we find that they guarantee the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation. This meaning is strongly confirmed by the historical background of the Second Amendment." Remember, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights registered rights given to the government by the people. The rights discussed in the 1st, 2nd, and 4th Amendments refer to pre-existing rights, as Justice Scalia noted, in other words, the right to keep arms existed before the Bill of Rights was ratified, and the 2nd Amendment limited the ability of the Government to infringe upon that right.

Justice Scalia concluded his analysis of the operative clause of the Second Amendment:
There seems to us no doubt, on the basis of both text and history, that the Second Amendment conferred an individual right to keep and bear arms. Of course, the right was not unlimited, just as the First Amendment's right of free speech was not, see, e.g., United States v. Williams, 553 U.S. ____ (2008). Thus we do not read the Second Amendment to protect the right of citizens to carry arms for any sort of confrontation, just as we do not read the First Amendment to protect the right of citizens to speak for any purpose.
He then went to the purpose clause, which I will gloss over. In a nutshell, he shows that the purpose clause refers to protecting a polity, not an individual state. He then lists three separate reasons why a militia would be necessary to a "free state,"
First, of course, it is useful in repelling invasions and suppressing insurrections. Second, it renders large standing armies unnecessary - an argument that Alexander Hamilston made in favor of federal control over the militia (author's note, this helps explain why the National Guard operates in the stead of a militia according to the Court in a prior decision).... Third, when the able-bodied men of a nation are trained in arms and organized, they are better able to resist tyranny.
Justice Scalia finished by pointing out that at the time of the Bill of Rights, one way tyrants oppressed the People was not by outlawing militias, but rather, denying them the tools with which to defend themselves from internal threats (i.e. the tyrant). This is what we must beware of, to paraphrase Justice William O. Douglas, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.

While I find the two dissenting opinions unconvincing, I would recommend reading them. Due to length concerns, I will not include them in this post.

I may be somewhat naive, inasmuch as I believe that generally, people are good. But my naivete is not so great as to believe that there will never be people who take a right and use it for the wrong purposes. However, simply because there are those who abuse the rights we enjoy does not mean that we should enjoin all others from that right and the protections they provide, be it the Right to keep and bear arms, the right to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances, the right to own land, the right to choose, the right to learn, etc.

Movie Review

This weekend, I watched my three new movies. I purchased To Kill a Mockingbird, Inherit the Wind, and 12 Angry Men. I'd seen two of these movies before, but it'd been about 20 years since I last saw them, so I was watching them with fresh eyes.

On Friday, the family got together and watched To Kill a Mockingbird. This was one of Gregory Peck's finest roles and an all around amazing movie. What struck me about the movie was the pacing. It was deliberately paced and set from a child's perspective. You could definitely feel the mood in the movie. Our children were frightened of Boo Radley's house. The story is a classic one of prejudices in the South, and of doing what's right, not what's popular.

Yesterday morning we watched Inherit the Wind. This movie, a classic starring Frederic March, Spencer Tracy, and Gene Kelly, is a fictionalized version of the Scopes "Monkey" Trial. The basic facts are the same, a schoolteacher is arrested for teaching evolution in violation of state law. Two heavyweight attorneys are brought in to try the case. The status quo is put on trial. The performances by the three stars really make this movie, a compelling movie in its own right, into one of the best movies of the past 50 years. The movie is timeless, because it touches on a subject that is enduring. As recently as two weeks ago, the Texas legislature was arguing similar points about relaxing the science standards in public schools, and just a few years ago, Kitzmiller showed that the Creationists are still working towards putting religious-based education back in public schools.

The last movie we watched, 12 Angry Men, was probably my favorite of the three. The tension in the room is palpable, and the performances passionate. The temerity of one man to demand that the jury take one more moment to reconsider what they thought was a foregone conclusion and the attack on the jurors' and audiences prejudices and stereotypes to find the right result makes for phenomenal cinema.

At the end of the day, I would definitely recommend any of the three films as they are all terrific.

Those Zany North Koreans!

Every now and then the North Koreans will do something to get themselves back in the news. Usually it's some act of stupidity/defiance, such as the Poplar Tree incident, the Tunnels, the Crab Wars, the Submarine incident, etc.

Yesterday, it was a missile launch. They've been working up the war rhetoric for the last few days in preparation for the launch. The launch itself was a P.R. victory for the country, because it shows they have the technology to launch a missile that reaches (at least) to Japan and it generated a lot of attention for the country. They will leverage this to the best of their abilities, garnering more aid and more publicity for the regime. The Dear Leader General Kim Chong Il ("the Chonger") may not be much for international travel, and he might just be a maniacal, mass murdering cur, but he's savvy. He knows how to keep himself in power and his people uninformed.

The country's news service has declared the launch a success, placing a satelite in orbit that sings the praises of the Great Leader (Kim Il Sung) and Dear Leader. This is false, of course, as no satelite actually entered orbit from this launch, but that doesn't matter to a country whose government controls what information reaches its people. Interesting sidenote, Jazz Shaw at the Moderate Voice writes an article here about the giving the President the authority to control information media during a time of crisis that he would get to define. Fortunately, we're not North Korea, so we don't have to worry about the Government trying to control what we hear. Oh, wait.

But back to the point. The real question that should come from this is what should we do about North Korea? What we will do is completely different. We'll do some sabre-rattling, name calling, and pounding on the table, but at the end of the day we'll end up giving them more aid. This is unfortunate, but it's what's probably going to happen.

What we should have done was invaded this country back in 2003. We had a much stronger case (real facts versus what the President wanted to be told so he could tell us of the imminence of danger) of a credible threat to the region. But that ship has sailed, and now we've hemorrhaged our resources, which limits our ability to respond.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Can You Hear My Body Talk?

I got my exercise bike today - it was surprisingly simple to set up. The good news is that I now can exercise while I'm on the computer, which is a great way to get some exercise while in a traditionally sedentary area. The bad news is that from where I am right now, the pedals are very close to the chair, which makes this more like a recumbent bike - not a problem, but it makes it more difficult to type while riding.

More later.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Aprl Fools' Day

Nope, no dead bunnies today.

I've been rather busy at work, and rather tired at home.

The kids are getting ready for school, the wife has Muffins with Mom with the kids at school today, so they're all getting themselves ready to go.

I could use a vacation day that doesn't involve flying to Atlanta.